Pollution niggle for GE plant

GE's locomotive manufacturing unit in Bihar, which chief minister Nitish Kumar had asked officials to give special preference to, has been stuck for clearance from the Bihar State Pollution Control Board for more than two months - because the board does not have a chairman.

By Joy Sengupta in Patna
  • Published 28.07.16
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Patna, July 27: GE's locomotive manufacturing unit in Bihar, which chief minister Nitish Kumar had asked officials to give special preference to, has been stuck for clearance from the Bihar State Pollution Control Board for more than two months - because the board does not have a chairman.

The Indian Railways diesel locomotive manufacturing plant at Marhaura in Saran, around 75km northwest of Patna, for which the American corporate giant is investing Rs 750 crore, is waiting for a pollution clearance since May 10, sources in the board told The Telegraph today.

Subhash Chandra Singh, who was chairman for around six years, resigned on May 18.

"The clearance is pending as the board has no chairman," a board official said. "The notification regarding the appointment of a new chairman is to happen within a couple of days. The board's foremost priority is to provide a pollution clearance to the project and another rail project which is being set up in Madhepura (by French company Alstom). All the ground work has been completed and once the new chairman joins, he or she will approve them immediately."

Usually, the board takes around 120 days to provide a pollution clearance certificate to any firm setting up shop in Bihar.

"However, this is a prized project and the state government had instructed that they (GE) shouldn't be made to wait for the usual period of time," the board official pointed out. "Hence, one can say that some delay has taken place; but then things are on track and only the joining of the new chairman is awaited."

A GE delegation headed by vice president John G. Rice had met industries minister Jai Kumar Singh on July 12 and had raised the pollution clearance issue.

The minister told The Telegraph that the new single-window system for clearances, to be tabled in the monsoon session of the state legislature, will solve such problems.

"GE had raised the issue with us and we have taken fast steps," Singh said. "I had immediately contacted the chief secretary and told him about the matter and he had assured that all necessary steps will be taken to ensure that they get the clearance as soon as possible. The same day, I had informed the chief minister. His instructions were to facilitate the clearance without any more delays and ensure that the company officials are not called or hassled."

Singh said: "The state government has acted very fast. Normally, it takes around six months for any unit to get the necessary clearances. However, for GE all the formalities were completed in around 35 days except for the pollution issue."

Yesterday, industries department principal secretary S. Siddharth said the pollution clearance was in its final stages.

There are 19 clearances a unit has to take in its pre-establishment stage. The pollution clearance has two divisions: pre-establishment and post-establishment.

In March, Nalin Jain, president and CEO, GE (rail, mining, defence and aerospace), had told The Telegraph that construction of the Marhaura plant will start in two months and last two years.

A Patna-based industrialist said: "If a company like GE is facing such hassles and a top official has to raise the issue before the minister, imagine the problems local industrialists face."